Photograph: Copyright Amos Trust / Mark Kensett

Some time ago I bonded with a woman on Twitter over a shared commitment to the struggle for Palestinian human rights and self determination. My memory is unreliable these days, but I’m quite sure we connected around the siege of Gaza in 2014, when more than 2,000 Palestinians were slaughtered during a 51-day Israeli blitz in which the most lethal and sophisticated weaponry in human history was unleashed on 1.8 million civilians trapped on the most densely populated piece of land on earth. She quit Twitter not long after, finding the atmosphere poisonous, but we’ve managed to keep in touch via email.

We’ve never met and she and I don’t swap much personal information, but from our exchanges I gather that she is an ordinary Brit, a regular churchgoer – earnest, compassionate and driven by a sense of moral clarity – with no personal connection to the region. Nonetheless, the dispossession of the Palestinians and their ongoing oppression, alongside the refusal of her own government to stand up for international law and condemn egregious human rights abuses, captured her attention and like me she is now a committed advocate.

We are only occasionally in touch but last week she made contact to share a video of the ‘Just Walk to Jerusalem’, a 147-day pilgrimage organised by the Amos Trust, in which she and dozens of others walked all the way from London to Jerusalem. (And yes, they really did walk.)

Readers of my blog might recall that the Amos Trust was the organisation that teamed up with Palmusic to present a concert I attended at St James’s Piccadilly, featuring a string quartet of Druze Palestinian siblings. Inspired by the event, I went on to support Palmusic by sponsoring two students in its Open Hebron music programme.

The ‘Just Walk’ was conceived to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and press the UK government to ‘change the record’ on Palestine. But this morning it seems to have taken on a new meaning thanks to Donald Trump’s wrecking ball Middle East foreign policy, which reached its nadir with yesterday’s announcement that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For those of you who don’t know, Jerusalem has been divided into (Arab) East and (Jewish) West since it was annexed by Israel in 1967, and its status has always been among the thorniest issues in already fraught ‘talks’.

I confess that while I woke up this morning still feeling the shock of Trump’s announcement, I remain uncertain what to think. Yesterday, many commentators – including those who should know better – performed last rites on the ‘Middle East peace process’ and the ‘two state solution’ both of which have in fact been sustained in a permanent vegetative state for decades. Indeed, this so-called process and its imagined solution exist now only in the minds of a few fantasists and the cynics who feed their delusion that some ‘status quo’ was being maintained. The briefest glance at a current map of the West Bank confirms the truth of the matter which is the aggressive daily expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, enabled by the bloated budget of Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry which is tasked with stalking and smearing anyone who objects. In short, the ‘status quo’ was not static at all.

Others claimed that it finally exposed America as a dishonest broker in the conflict. For those wilful naifs, apparently Barack Obama’s $38-billion top up in military aid to Israel, the requirement that Texans seeking hurricane relief funding sign declarations against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, the well-funded war on Palestinian advocacy on US university campuses (as well as those in Canada, the UK and elsewhere), and countless other displays of America’s ‘Israel first’ policy hadn’t provided enough evidence that US affections were already spoken for. Besides, it’s not clear why the “Potemkin peace process” which Hillary Clinton promised her pro Israel donors according to the Podesta email leaks, served the cause of Palestinian equality and human rights any better. Curiously, the US media were more interested in skewering Julian Assange over the leaks than pondering the implications of Clinton’s cynicism, dishonesty and admission of bias.

So yes, today we know where we stand and it’s where we’ve stood for a long time: silent witnesses to the erasure of the Palestinian people, the colonisation of their history and culture, the theft of their land and resources and collusion in the ugly pretence that the Palestinian thirst for justice is actually a thirst for blood. In short, the threadbare but familiar colonialist narrative dressed up as ‘different’ this time, with anyone who disagrees being ruthlessly silenced.

In that sense, I suppose, the ‘Just Walk to Jerusalem’ means as much today as it did yesterday, and will tomorrow. Here is their video:

Just Walk to Jerusalem 2017 from Amos Trust on Vimeo.

And here is a more in depth look at their journey. Just Walk to Jerusalem 2017

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